Saturday, November 19, 2011

We Hold These Truths......

ONE: A tiny fraction of our population owns and controls a vastly disproportionate amount of the total wealth in this country...and globally.

TWO: They have gained this wealth not by productive means, nor by making any beneficial contribution to our society, but by learning to 'game' the financial system through immoral means and strategies that have wrecked havoc on the world economy and inestimable pain on the population at large.

THREE: They are using their massive financial power to buy influence and to control the political balance in order to manipulate the democratic system for their own purposes, rendering it a sham democracy.

FOUR: Their concern for the welfare of the country and population at large is only that it be maintained in a passive state so that they can continue to plunder the wealth of the middle and working classes.

FIVE: The pain and suffering caused by loss of homes, loss of employment and loss of the means to thrive on all not their concern, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE CAUSED IT. Compassion is not a value they hold or respect, on any level. There is no evidence that they feel any responsibility--nor even a shred of regret-- for the economic devastation they have caused.

SIX: Fairness, any concept of what is 'just', and any idea that a society is only as developed as its most disadvantaged segments....are considerations only for the weak. The strong do not need to consider anything but their own ascendency. The weak are destined to suffer. This is the " to be you" doctrine.

SEVEN: The looter elite consider their ability to manipulate the financial system no different than their ability to control the political system. Both are the privilege of the strong and the powerful. Democracy is not an ideal, but simply a system by which the vast majority will be controlled and they can be productive and be taken advantage of.

EIGHT: By owning the means of controlling the political system, the looter elite also holds the means of directing power against their opponents. Not only do the politicians work for them, so too the police, even the military and a powerful propaganda machine, which assures their ability to continue looting and to put down all significant opposition...with violence when necessary.

NINE: The compensation of executives is vastly out of the range of normal compensation for executives around the rest of the world, sitting at approximately 450 to 1. In other words a CEO is being typically paid FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY TIMES AS MUCH AS ONE OF HIS EMPLOYEES. This is an historical anomaly and has no precedent in modern times.

If you do not believe that all of the above statements are have been manipulated too. Look around you; this is exactly what is happening, and the next time you hear a bought and paid for pundit or politician say that the 99% doesn't know what it is pissed-off about, or what it wants......come back and read this list.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Penn State alumnus speaks

When I got out of the army in 1967, I began matriculating at The Pennsylvania State University that fall. I was delighted. My family's males had attended Princeton for generations, and I knew that my father was disappointed that I would not even apply. Having grown-up in Princeton, the town, I was intimately familiar with the halls of ivy, had haunted the campus as a 'townie' as a kid on my bicycle, been to countless Tiger football games and lived in a house where orange and black were even the color scheme for a bathroom. (Seems like a recipe for hemorrhoids, in retrospect.)

So, when it came time to apply to schools I already knew that Princeton and its endemic elitism was not on the list. As it turned out, I applied only to one college and was accepted. When I arrived at the Schuylkill Haven branch campus, I was not at all overwhelmed by either the size of it or the demands of it in a social sense. In fact, it felt like a good fit; I felt as if I had come home and knew it was where I belonged. After three quarters, I transferred to the main campus in State College, and that was an easy transition too. I relished having a course catalog the size of a small city's phone book. And, after three years in the infantry, I was dedicated to the idea of taking courses I wanted to take because I was excited about them, instead of taking them because it would lead to a career field. I studied art, in one medium or another, for my entire undergraduate time. I ended-up majoring in philosophy...not because I was fascinated by the incoherent blather of dead Germans trying to explain life by looking at it through the ponderous power of their intellects, but because I met a professor who understood that I was in search of meaning in my own life. And, this, he well knew, would not come from traditional studies, but through widely varied investigations of people like Eric Fromm--a former stevedore turned philosopher--who were devoted to the idea that philosophy needed to be, above all else, RELEVANT.

Under the kind tutelage of Dr. Ernst Hans Freund--a professor emeritus on the verge of retirement, who had as a young man escaped Nazi Germany and the death camps, where he would have ended-up due to being a Quaker--I read whatever Dr. Freund suggested as a likely place to find answers, and I met with him in his office once a week and supported what I had written in response to the most recent readings. It was a higher education in the true sense of searching for meaning and had a depth that just sopping up intellectual arguments and regurgitating salient aspects of them on exams could never touch. All the years since those days of wonder and introspection I have remained deeply grateful to Dr. Freund...and to Penn State for having the wisdom to give this jewel of a man a place from which to shine.

So, when I read the headlines and subsequent press about the scandal that has now devastated the university I felt sad on a very personal level....sad that something precious has been sullied, sad that there are victims of despicable predations, sad that what once seemed like a bastion of learning, both moral and academic, has now been damaged so severely that it will likely take at least a generation to repair it...if that is even possible.

As an undergrad I photographed Penn State football from the sidelines. I watched Joe Paterno in action. It was 1968 and he was yet to become the iconic JoPa, but it was apparent that he was a skilled and caring coach. I felt great pride that his players would receive an education rather than be scooted through a 'phys ed' program that would leave them still semi-literate as has been so often the case at other ultra-competitive universities. Football is important at Penn State, but Joe Paterno never let it become so blown out of perspective that his players were merely being used....often used up.

Apparently, somewhere along the path between then and now, however, something changed. Footbball became God at PSU, and the welfare of a ten year-old child would be considered as less important than a 'reputation' to protect. How this happened and what the mechanisms were that encouraged this descent into turpitude will be much studied and dissected in the next few years. The university is already sending out e-mail to alums saying, essentially, don't worry, we'll bounce back.

But, I will never again look up at the diploma hanging on the wall a few feet from where I am writing this and have quite the same feeling of pride that I did until just a few days ago. Honor is dying in this country. It has a few bastions where it is holding on for dear life...but, it's critically endangered all the same. And, another one of those bastions of Honor just crashed and burned.

You can put the crystal goblet back together...but, it will always have cracks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Herman doesn't get it.....

Herman Caine is fed-up with the 'nit picky' media. He's sick and tired of being asked about this sexual harassment non-issue. Move on. Let's get 'back on message'. He's dismissive to reporters who dare to raise it once again. He's just plain sick of it. But, what he's not getting is that it isn't going to go away just because he's ready for it to.

The fact is, if you are running for the office of President of the United States, you need to demonstrate that you have a lack of character issues that might prove deleterious to your ability to govern. If you are unable to do this, people are going to look elsewhere. We've pretty much had it up to here with politicians who suddenly reveal that they are sleazeball pieces of crap. Did I put that too mildly? We're sick of idiots and assholes who think they should hold public office. And, I believe we are about to enter a new period of moving towards sending same back to wherever they came from. Without stating it in a position paper, that is one of the underlying messages of the Occupy Movement: time to stop letting self-interested and greedy business and political figures run the show. Time to 'upgrade'....because it's just not working for more and more people.

So, Herman, if you are listening, you need to stop pushing back at the media, answer all the questions until we are either satisfied that you have been wronged or that you are a sleazeball who hits on women in the workplace. Claiming that the media want to destroy you, that YOU are the victim here, that all the allegations are false, that you can't remember....none of that is going to serve any purpose in convincing the voters who might consider you as a candidate that you are worthy of the office. You need to man-up and do whatever you must to set the doubts to rest. Anything short of that is just playing dodge ball.

But, all of this is raising another even more critical issue: what kind of leader would you be? Your method of pushing away criticism, your desire to ignore your detractors, to deny responsibility....all point to a person of arrogance. Herman, you have a great big ego and you are pretty sure that you can use it to accomplish whatever you want. This may be mistaken for spirited truculence on the part of some neo-cons....those who cheer at the thought of people with no insurance dying, and jeer at an active duty soldier who is gay, know, the crowd in the Coliseum who roar when a lion tears a slave to pieces, those people....the idiots and nabobs who think we can motor off into the future as if nobody but ourselves exists, who believe that they have theirs, and it sucks to be you, the Ayn Rand crowd.

Meanwhile, back in the Human Race, we are getting really worried about where all of this is headed. The fact that you, Herman, are the leading GOP candidate in polls, despite your possible malfeasance in the past, despite your arrogant and dismissive that is troubling.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Timing is everything....

I recently met a remarkable person for the second time. John Howe is a retired engineer who lives with his wife, Deb, on a back road not far from here. I first met him a few years ago because I was out wandering with a camera and the field above the Howe's farm affords a stunning view. But, this chance meeting occurred at a cocktail party (yes, we have those here in the backwoods of Maine) the evening before a wedding.

As John and I talked, it became clear that he has a deep interest in not merely the affairs of the world, but in tracking such things as climate change, population growth, peak oil, and he is also working on various projects involving zero impact living. It is readily apparent to all who know John that he's Mensa bright, especially so in the realm of the left hemisphere and in the use of math and logic to investigate solutions to problems. He retired to a simple rural life-style after getting patents on such things as the first metal-composite ski (the famous Head 360), and was in on the beginning of carbon-fiber tennis racquet development. Now he works on things like solar tractors and cars. He's developed a 'threshing machine' that a person can use to separate grains from chaff on an individual opposed to the industrial approach of agri-business.

John's approach to most problems is pretty much what any engineer would do: he crunches the numbers in an attempt to define the problem in quantifiable terms. This allows the various aspects of it to be understood better in relation to all the other elements. And, John, having been mystified by such questions as: "Why are we motoring off into the future as if we'll never run out of oil?" has crunched the numbers revealing how fast our global population is growing, how fast we are increasing the demand for oil, how food production is evolving in relation to the demands that are now and will be placed on it. He's very good at concretizing a set of problems that most of us simply look at and shake our heads. By translating such overwhelming numbers into understandable form, he has arrived at some conclusions--I suppose 'hypotheses' would be a better term--that are alarming.

At one point in our conversation, he looked at me with a sense of resignation and said, "I used to think it didn't matter what would happen...because I would be dead." He's 76 now (but he runs UP mountains for the fun of it) "But, now I know that I will be here.....because, we're right on the tipping point." And he just looked at me.

I might have found his conclusion more alarming except for the fact that my intuition has been telling me the same thing in as many ways as I can hear it. Everywhere I look, everything I read or see on t-v, seems to be conveying the same message: all the elements are in place for a collision with reality. People who have hope that things will come around, just sort of shape-up and return to what we had.....are about to be slapped rudely with a reality check. Our society is on the verge of sweeping and dramatic changes.

What form they will take remains a matter of conjecture. But, there are so many different factors coming to full maturity and effect, that anybody looking at it all from a reasonably objective overview must now acknowledge at least a sense of dread about the future. I delivered a sermon this past Sunday to the local Unitarian church....a wonderful congregation who is adventurous enough that they've had me come back multiple times. The nature of my sermon was essentially the same as what I am saying here, with the added dimension that seeking to create an active community of souls who are preparing is just a very timely and good idea right now.

I had wondered how this message would be received. Would I be seen as a kind of 'Chicken Little' bringer of doom, as inappropriately alarmist on some level. As it turned out, these good people were not only in complete agreement with my message, some of them were way ahead of me. It is now readily apparent to people across the various elements of our society that something is beginning to happen and that we need to prepare ourselves, both mentally and physically. Community, in the sense of a group that depends on each other, dedicated to the principle that we're all in the same life-boat going to be central and vitally important.

So, you might want to look around your own locale for others who are also concerned, if not alarmed, and begin taking steps to organize an intelligent and compassionate response to what is looming on the horizon. Google: "Transition Communities" or "Transition Handbook" and see what is going on with that concept. Wiki has a section on it and it seems to be a much more enlightened response than all the people who are becoming so-called 'Preppers'. Survivalists have been around for decades; most of them are isolationists who have heavily armed themselves and are prepared to kill YOU....or anybody who interferes with their feeling that what is coming is going to be the great winnowing of the 'fittest', which in their minds translates into the most willing to commit violence.

'Community' is the key.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Feedback cycles...and why we need to know about them

In various scientific areas of investigation researchers have long known that sometimes a chemical or even a mechanical interaction will accelerate rapidly of its own accord. Most often, this is the result of some element of the process becoming energized by an action or interaction within the process itself. Hence the term, 'feedback'. For instance, let's say a machine has a problem with harmonic vibration. This can happen in high-intensity engines with many parts moving at furious speeds in relationship to each other. So, a very high rpm shaft develops a vibration that has a harmonic aspect to it, and it sets up vibrations at other levels in addition to the simple one that is the source of the problem. And, as this process develops the secondary and tertiary vibrations begin to cause a break-down in the tolerances of the bearings and pretty soon the machine is vibrating so badly that it will likely tear itself apart if it isn't shut-down. It's the old, 'one thing leads to another.....and another' thing at work.

With regard to climate change and the phenomenon of global warming--still regarded as a myth and conspiracy by the likes of Michele Bachmann and Ric Perry--scientists have discovered a number or elements in the overall process that have feedback potential. A good example is that of changes brought about by the shrinking of the polar ice in the arctic. Instead of a white sheet of ice--which reflects the heat of the sun very well, thereby preserving the cold temps of the ocean beneath it--as the ice retreats, it is replaced by dark green sea water and that accepts and absorbs the energy from the sun much more the warming of that region speeds up accordingly. Voila! A feedback cycle.

Another example--a more powerful one which is much less predictable--is that of methyl hydrates, frozen methane gas. It exists in vast deposits, both on the ocean floor, and in the tundra regions of the arctic north. As the ocean continues to get warmer, and as the perma-frost in the tundra melts, incalculable amounts of methane are being released. But, despite not being able to clearly monitor or calculate how much is becoming gaseous methane and escaping into the earth's atmosphere, scientists do know--beyond any doubt--that the amount is very great, and that methane is a 'hot-house' gas with even more ability to warm the atmosphere than carbon-dioxide. This has the potential to become a runaway feedback cycle and completely invalidate all the scientific calculations about the speed with which global warming is happening. It's not magic, but the results could seem magical in terms of how surprisingly fast the entire process could become. (Click on the title of this piece to read an article on this phenomenon.)

There are other feedback cycles in this process. Years ago it came to my attention that the vast majority of photosynthesis is performed NOT by the plants of our planet, but by blue-green algae in the oceans. The forests and jungles perform only about 25% of what is required for the maintenance of life on Earth. So, if the blue-green algae in our oceans stop producing oxygen...and up-taking put it scientifically....we are SO screwed. If the oceans continue to get warmer, some scientists think this is exactly what might happen. But, not to worry, they're clearly making all this up just so they'll have jobs, in the non-existent future.

I hope that you find all of this not merely 'scary'. That would accomplish NOTHING. What I really am hoping you will do is throw the weight of your opinion and your energy behind the fact that we need to stop lolly-gagging and insist on action across the board to do the only sensible thing intelligent beings should do......CHANGE WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING TO CAUSE OUR OWN DEMISE.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

So who's savage now......?

In the decades before Native Americans were subjugated, by means of the self-assigned authority of the white man's laws relegating them to reservations--and with the sickening power of our culture, including alcohol, and psychological desolation--we condescendingly referred to the members of this proud warrior culture as 'savages'. We treated them according to the European tradition of treating all indigenous illiterate children who didn't know what was good for themselves, much less how 'civilized' people should live. When I was in Utah and Arizona last spring, my son and I saw once again constant reminders of how the vast majority of Native
Americans still suffer. We probably could have subjugated them and destroyed their culture without firing a shot, just by giving them all the alcohol they wanted. It is heart-breaking to see the results of our history with them.

But, now a new kind of 'savage' is stalking the American landscape. And, far from being a noble being with deep connections to the natural world, this 'new savage' is a true beast. He and she are inclined to dominate with power--political power at this point--but, the single most salient quality that sets them an astonishing lack of compassion for any other beings, animal or human. They cheered raucously the other night when Ric Perry's accomplishment as the governor of Texas was mentioned. He now holds the esteemed position of being the governor on whose watch more people have been put to death than any other in American history. And, the tea bagger crowd loves this.

When Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul if people who do not have health insurance should be allowed to die, a savage in the audience shouted his approval. Others cheered as well. If one is a student of human history, i.e.,did more than just squeak by a U.S. history class in high school, and has some overall sense of how the human race has evolved, it soon becomes clear that we are only able to avoid sinking to our lowest impulses when we cultivate the idea that COMPASSION is as important as life itself. When we forget to pay attention to this we have our little moments, don't we? Things like the Holocaust happen. Ouch! Didn't mean to do that....just kinda forgot there for a few years what makes us 'human'.

So, here we are at another pivotal moment in our history. We are on the verge of making some very critical decisions about how we will behave towards our fellow human-beings, indeed our fellow Americans....and we are pulling back from the notion that what separates us from the beasts of the forest is ONLY our ability to feel compassion, to empathize, to care about others in a meaningful way. Looking out across the land, and even the entire planet, one now sees a clear tendency to isolate in social groupings, to defend a viewpoint that discounts the needs and the vitality of others. Perhaps this is the ultimate outgrowth of a culture where the worship of material goods and possessions has supplanted a more spiritual outlook. But, even religions that were intended to become a source of guidance in this process of being human and to make us better at it....are being co-opted and used to isolate and attack 'other'. Regardless of the vehicle or the excuse we use, we are identifying our own needs as paramount, and we will not merely allow violence, but are increasingly willing to commit it--in a variety of ways--on those we perceive as a threat to meeting our own needs.

So, it might just be that we have now come to the point where we have morphed ourselves into the kinds of beings that we looked down on so condescendingly for so many generations.

The heretofore 'civilized' human being has now become the savage. It should be noted, however, that even when we declared ourselves to be civilized we were not acting in a civil manner towards most other sentient beings. Since our Cro Magnon ancestors were thumping each other over the head with clubs and sticking animals (okay, yes, each other too) with spears, we have learned a phenomenal amount about how to invent and create 'things' that serve our needs....and foremost among our inventions: WEAPONS. An early hominid could scarcely have dreamed of the weapons we now take for granted. Hell, a soldier in the Civil War could not have imagined that only a couple of generations into the future we'd be able to incinerate a city with a single bomb, delivered by a missile traveling many times the speed of sound. We are living the stuff of science-fiction...only a few decades ago.

So, who is the real savage now?

Of course, there is a percentage of the population that will desperately cling to the idea that being a true Human Being means you possess a quality referred to by mystics for millennia as 'Heart', and that it is via this aspect of our being that we are able to feel compassion for all other beings...and not just human ones either. It may well be this decreasing number (relative to the number of savages who are on the increase) of souls among us that becomes our last life-line to our humanity.

But, as of now, the savage beast in us is advancing to the fore. When I contemplate why this is happening...despite all the lessons of our past....I have to believe that this is just one more episode of our needing to learn lessons that have apparently not sunk in. We apparently need one more turn on the anvil, in a state of red-hot malleability, to shape us in a way that we can once again remember that our only purpose in living has been all along and become Human Beings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I keep looking....for an optimist.

Over the last year or so, I have consciously spent time talking with people about what they think is in store for America, and the planet. I have tried to make an effort to not sway these conversations in any particular direction, but rather to listen and find out what people think, feel, sense is happening now, and what it might lead to. There have been many such conversations. And, in every single case what I have found is a uniform sense of dread, of fearful foreboding that the train is speeding down the tracks towards a fiery wreck.

Again, I have not tried to insert my own opinions, nor sway anybody else's opinion. I considered this quest as a kind of impromptu research and I remain genuinely interested in hearing how people from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds are perceiving our present predicament....and it is that. With 14 million Americans unemployed, many of them long-term and without hope of finding a job, housing stagnated, mortgages continuing to be foreclosed at an alarming rate, the stock-market (where so many have their futures invested) with a permanent case of the jitters, slamming wildly up and down on seeming whims.....Americans are collectively holding their breaths and waiting to see what this political season brings.

The media have made sure we know how abysmal Barack Obama's approval ratings are--at 44%--but, they seem to slide over the fact that the approval ratings for the entire legislative branch hover somewhere near or in the single digits. Congress is acting like a bunch of adolescent brats, each with his or her personal agenda, and unwilling to compromise, despite the suffering it imposes on Americans at large. The Tea Party has legitimized itself by getting into league with CNN now....and yet they apparently make up only approximately 18% of the population. But, because they are so loud and obnoxious in their presence, one might think they were the majority. Far from it.

So, here's the bottom-line: I am still looking for a single intelligent person who is expressing a solidly grounded optimistic view of where all this is leading. I have not been able to find such a person for over a year now. At a pre-wedding gathering a month ago, I met a remarkable person. John Howe is a retired engineer who held patents on exotic sports equipment and made enough to retire to a hill-side farm here in Maine thirty years ago. (click on the title bar to visit his site and see what he is all about) In his mid-seventies, John is a mensa bright soul, and his strength has always been his left-brained ability to quantify problems, leading to, of course, a sound engineering solution. Well, he's been crunching the numbers for some years now on the amount of oil, rate of population increase, rate of development in India, China, etc. He has spent considerable energy gathering and quantifying all the factors that are in play with regard to how we will be conducting our lives as we proceed into the future. And, he looked at me, at one point in our conversation, and said, "I used to think none of it mattered because I wouldn't be here anyway. But, now I know I will because we're right on the 'tipping point'."

Think about it. What he's saying is that by our own actions, with our stultifying unwillingness to address even problems that we know are potentially going to cause our own extinction....we have managed to accelerate the speed of that train as it hurtles down the tracks.

And, the GOP candidate who leads in the polls today.....says that climate change, global warming, is not scientifically proven. The person who is quite possibly going to be the dominant 'decider' in our near future.....thinks it is all 'made up' by some ill-intended scientists who just want to make a big deal out of it.

He also gleamed his great big ol' Texas smile when the crowd of Tea Baggers at the CNN-Tea Party debate the other night, roared its approval of his unprecedented execution rate as governor.

Yesssuh.....we be in a heap o' trouble. One big ol' steamin' HEAP.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What we really lost that day......

Chris Hedges is a journalist who writes a column for the webzine Truthdig. If you click on the above title you can read a column he wrote on 9/11/11. I have read NOTHING else that comes as close to expressing how I feel about that terrible day ten years ago....and the ensuing events of the last decade.

In the aftermath of the violence, we were a nation in mourning, and we were also seething over the heinous assault on innocents in our midst. The result of that collective anger, indeed outrage, was a national resolve to somehow 'get even' with the bastards who did this to us. As a result we signed-on for two wars and countless other acts of violence on our own behalf.....none of which really landed a body-blow on the actual terrorist organization that conceived and carried out the attacks of 9/11. Not until we finally caught up with Bin Laden himself did we really effect anything constituting 'justice'.

Read the article if you are willing. I do not believe there is a sound argument against what Chris Hedges is saying.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Time to really pay attention.......

While Ric Perry has now established a firm lead in the polls of Republican and Republican leaning voters, it has been a matter of days since he once again voiced his opinion that 'global warming' is a matter of conjecture and a conspiracy engendered by the left as a way of pushing their agenda, especially with regard to environmental policy.

He just said, echoing Michele Bachmann as he did so, that if he was elected president one of his first actions would be to abolish the EPA, i.e. the agency that stands between corporate America and the health of our air, water, resources. He, and Bachmann, would toss all that to the wind, and let the big companies do whatever they need to do to make all the money they want. And, following typical conservative logic, when they are happy with huge profits, we'll all benefit. There will be jobs for every person who wants one, mortgages will get paid, retirements will be secure once again, and we will all sail happily into the sunset.

And, I still cannot get over the fact that any middle-class or working class American believes this is true. The facts of our present situation prove that it simply is The Big Lie in action. Corporations are making windfall profits, paying fewer taxes than they have in generations...and sitting on trillions in capital....and STILL NOT HIRING. The fact is, they have down-sized, streamlined and cut costs so heavily that they now know they can be wildly profitable in their new exactly what is their motivation for hiring more workers?

There is none.

So, let's take a look at what every single one of the GOP candidates is proposing: a new playing field. It will allow corporations to pollute, plunder, destroy and generally run rough-shod over the environment. Amazingly, tea-baggers and 'foxies' all think this would be just fine. Really? Rampant pollution, fewer measures to abate global warming, fracking, drilling, stripping....all just fine. Good God!!!! What do they think we will drink when our wells are polluted by frackers? What will we breathe when our air is loaded with the residues of coal-fired power plants (which it already is.....but could get much worse)? How will we survive when global warming becomes so virulent that it interdicts ocean currents that are the only thing standing between us and a new ice age?

The scope of this idiocy is so stunning that it remains almost incomprehensible. Click on the title above and see today's stunner about how fast the Greenland ice cap is melting. One of the scientists reported that on seeing the scope of the melting he was 'gob-smacked', simply incredulous.

So, we are seriously considering putting any one of the goddamn idiots on the GOP ticket in a position where they could have the authority to give big industry the green light to pull back all the controls on their desire to pollute in order to raise profits from merely windfall levels to astronomical levels.

This is the 'Looter Elite' in action folks. This is how they function, with absolutely no regard for anything but making their profits as vast as possible...and with no sense of responsibility for the long-term impact on all of us.

If I was reading of these events and possibilities in a novel, I would be snorting my disbelief and muttering about how inept the writer was, because nobody could be expected to believe such a stupid story-line. But, WE'RE LIVING IT.

It's real. And, that has to qualify as the greatest horror movie of all time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Off and runnin' we go.

Suddenly, it feels like fall. When I stand on the lawn looking up at the sparkling stars; there is just that feeling that the halcyon days of summer are behind us. Eeegads! Where did it go?

So, as summer fades into fall, we are now approaching a season in which the political rhetoric is going to really heat-up. The field of GOP candidates is still lacking the presence of Sarah Palin, but, as one reporter stated so clearly: you don't go on a vacation with your autograph and the constitution in huge graphics on the side of a bus....unless you're running. I believe that her Narcissistic Personality Disorder will demand that she toss her hat in the ring. Unfortunately, that will not reduce nor even soften the 'crazy quotient' in the race. What we have, as a group, is already so nutso that having dear Sarah in the mix will almost not be noticeable. Her 'fingernails on the blackboard' voice that makes me cringe when I hear its dulcet tones, so dripping with sarcasm, will be, however. Hey, I have to practice my sarcasm too; how else will I survive the upcoming political season?

I would have nominated Michele Bachmann as the nut-ball flag-bearer, but, I dunno, Rick Perry is giving her a good run for her money. She lies at least once a day and then acts indignant when the press points out that she has. She seems to think that lies should be acceptable; after all, it IS politics, right? He, on the other hand, opens his mouth and makes himself look radically stupid at least that often. Perry thinks global warming is a conspiracy....really? Can he still be a birther? I think that category of idiocy is still available, and as long as he's going to toss science out the back-door, he might as well sign-on in that ward too. How 'bout being a 'truther'? I am certain there's still a few padded cells available on that floor of the asylum too. I mean, why go half-way? If you really want to be the King of the Nut-jobs, do it up right.

It feels like Bachmann will self-destruct when she actually encounters mainstream American voters. She may like swimming in the red-state waters of baptismal sorts ...but, when the waters get just a bit bluer, and the crowds at her rallys aren't all squeezing Bibles as they gaze upon her heavenly visage...she's going to seem way too far-out there to get elected. At least, I am fervently hoping that is the case....especially because I start to tremble and shake like an aspen leaf when I strain to imagine what it would feel like to have her sitting where Barack Obama is right now.

For his part, I try to imagine the after hours conversations that the Obamas have. They are both smart and they believed that he was elected with a mandate for change. I also believe that both people are well-tinged with idealism, and that it must have taken a beating in the last couple of years. The steady parade of monkey-wrenching idiots who have blocked his attempts to make good on his campaign promises--for the most part, eh--could not really have been anticipated, at least not to the degree of hostility and intransigence that the Tea Baggers have demonstrated. He's born their attacks and stupefying arguments with great dignity and perhaps a little too much forbearance. In fact, I believe I have a lot of company when I find myself wishing that he would get a little more--okay maybe a LOT MORE--feisty and nail the idiots when they so richly deserve it.

The monstrous hypocrisy and copious duplicity practiced by his opposition has been a shameful mark on American politics. The GOP hacks who are intent on protecting the wealth of corporations and the very affluent, are so utterly transparent in their self-interest, that it has become no trick at all for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to make a mockery of them nightly.

But, hang on to your hats, folks. I have a sense that things are going to get really obnoxious in the campaign ahead. Whether or not Barack can stay above the fray is going to be interesting, but I also sense that both he and Michelle have already accepted that they have been confronted with a set of circumstances that will make his re-election a long shot.....unless, the independent voters of America take a good hard look at the alternative. Getting rid of Barack Obama and replacing him with a Rick Perry, or--God forbid....please God forbid it--a Michele Bachmann, may not seem like a course of action that will help our ship of state go anyplace but ON THE ROCKS.

Really America, please wake-up in time.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Congress for sale to the highest bidders??? betcha.

By now, you know and I know that the men and women who are responsible for running our country are a bunch of self-serving, self-advancing political hacks. Our system of governance is so dysfunctional that it cannot get out of its own way...and there are some very clear and obvious reasons why this should be so.

First and foremost: they do not go to Washington as 'public servants' but rather as political aspirants who almost universally will stay there as long as they can manage to get re-elected. This means, of course, that they must accumulate huge campaign chests of money and begin waging the campaign for their own re-election as soon as they have been re-elected each time. In other words, they are not ever NOT RUNNING for their office, and this means that catering to affluent constituents and even non-constituent entities becomes the critical key to staying in office. As time passes the lobbyists..and the interests they lobby for....inexorably come to the point where they have bought a legislator, lock, stock and barrel, as the expression goes. They 'donate' so much money at every opportunity that it becomes well-nigh impossible for the legislator to refuse to do their bidding.

What this means is that Congress has slowly evolved into a body of bought and paid for minions who are obligated to do the bidding of corporations and even whole industries...whether or not that is in the best interest of the American people at large and their constituents at home. What we are seeing at present is proof of this. All the Republicans--almost without exception--have opted to protect rich Americans and wildly profitable companies against having to pay even a reasonable share of revenue. When you have a billionaire, Warren Buffet, standing in front of national media and telling us that he pays far less taxes than his office manager does....and that he KNOWS this is unfair and simply wrong.....what more do you need to know?

So, the Republicans are bent on reducing spending by putting the greatest burden of massive cuts on the backs of the middle-class and the working class....and at the same time, protecting the wealthy from paying even a percentage equal to what rich Americans paid in the past. They have drawn a line in the sand and are defending it as if it was the most critical issue of our times, with the same desperate zeal that a small infantry unit would make a last stand against an onrushing hoard of enemy.

If you haven't asked yourself why this is such a make or break issue for is the time to do so. And, I will just bet that you get the same answer I do: the rich corporate and individual interests are their employers, in a very real manner of speaking.

The Looter Elite is now calling the shots very skillfully using the Tea Baggers and issues such as the sanctity of 'Free Enterprise' in much the same way that the Confederacy got simple farm boys to go off to war to protect the interests of rich slave-owners. They sold them the bill-of-goods that it was really about 'states' rights', when the truth was that it was about preserving an economy that depended heavily on rich people being able to enslave black people. And, that is not a fact that I have manufactured for my own convenience in the same vein that talking heads on Fox do all the time.

Time to WAKE UP, America!!!! Our own legislators no longer represent us in the manner that we expect them to. They work for those who keep them in office with an endless river of cash. can take that to the bank.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ernest Callenbach at 82

His novel "Ecotopia" was published in '72 and had an impact far beyond the borders of mere fiction writing. For a full description of its contents, click on the title above and see what has been posted on Wikipedia.

Recently, Callenback, now 82, sat down with Matt Sledge, a staff writer for Huffington Post and shared his present thinking on what has transpired over the last 41 years and what he believes is happening in our society. Here's a sampling: "Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans' political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand. That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them."

Funny thing happens as one gets older: their ability to see clearly and to put it in context deepens, and I believe this is at the core of all actual WISDOM. In these times there are a host of posers, all pretending to have a handle on 'the truth' and self-anointing themselves as a source of what we should pay attention to. Most of these imposters--and there is a very long list of them with national audiences, the most glaring being Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, of course--are putting forward an agenda that is both self-serving and self-destructive were it to be applied to any great degree. When Callenbach uses the term, "looter elite", he is referring to all the pundits and their mentors who are loudly putting forward the philosophy that getting what you want is all that matters. This is the previously referred to view of Ayn Rand, et al. What really caught my attention, however, is Callenbach's almost casual mention--as if of course you already know this--of this being a definite cause of 'empires' crumbling.

If the aims and goals of the neo-conservative movement become the primary driving force in how this society conducts will be the beginning of a process of tearing itself apart at the seams. History has taught repeatedly that a society cannot become the vehicle and the means for a small ruling class to become fabulously wealthy and powerful, without also creating the means of its own destruction. Taking a look back at tsarist Russia, feudal Europe, earlier societies that depended on slavery and conquest...and on and on.....all gives us the exact same message. To allow the 'looter elite' who is currently gaining serious domination to simply pull the wool, even temporarily, over our eyes is to set the stage for 'The Great Crumbling", and God only knows what that will look like, but I am guessing that it will not be pleasant.

So, here we are at a crossroads, symbolized by the current deadlock in congress. The minions of the looters can have their way and dump off the pain of a contracting economy onto the backs of the middle-class and the working class....take away benefits earned and held as a sacred promise by those who really need them....protect the wealth of the upper crust, and the looter corporations who are seeing profitability on an unprecedented scale, and do all of this thinking that indeed, 'it sucks to be you'. And, we should not expect them to have the wisdom or insight born of greed that would allow them to know that they are working towards a calamity of unimaginable proportions.

Perhaps there is a broadly held intuitive sense that this is what we are doing. And, maybe this helps to explain the current fascination--indeed obsession--with the idea of an onrushing Armageddon, Gotterdamerung, Rapture, End Time, etc. A very large percentage of people I have spoken with, feel that a mega-disaster is coming. Some are almost counting on it to straighten up the mess we've created with the environment, the economy, class conflict, global conflict, religious insanity....just about every single aspect of life on planet earth in these times.

But, all of that not withstanding.....there is no time like the present to make a commitment in our own lives to hold onto our sense of moral rectitude, our compassion towards other less fortunate souls, and to act in ways that not only don't contribute, but fly in the face of all this.

As the old 'hippyism' said, "If not now, when? If not you, who?"

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Alternatives? What alternatives.....?

I don't think it would be fair of me to allude to the fact that there are indeed alternatives to spending one's life on the great rotary milking machine....and not specify what at least a few of them are.

Okay, I was a hippy. Sometimes, I was a member of the great unwashed, unless I could find a nice stream or a lake to dive into. There was a period when my 'extended family' even ate out of dumpsters. We discovered that a local Safeway tossed huge amounts of good food out with the 'bad' food that was merely outdated. If an egg broke in a flat of eggs, the whole flat went. Some kind soul realized that we were using these cast-offs and began putting them BESIDE the dumpster, instead of inside it. Hallelujiah.

We considered and even referred to ourselves as 'freaks', and we definitely knew that we were 'outsiders' in the culture from which we had emerged. In truth, we were ordinary young Americans who had each looked around at this society and found it lacking in many ways. We craved an alternative society where love and compassion were important, where kindness and freedom were accessible and revered. We thought of what we were doing with our lives as creating an alternative society within the greater one. Some have referred to those times as the era of the 'counter-culture', and I believe that is an apt descriptor of the motivation behind it. They were good times for those who didn't fall prey to the temptation to over-indulge in hedonism, drugs and laziness. Some of the hardest working people I have known were well-grounded and highly motivated HIPPIES. So, please do not succumb to the notion that it was all about being high and promiscuous.

During the rise of the Third Reich in Germany, there was also a counter-culture. It was made of young people who had basically the same reaction to a highly structured and regimented society that the hippies had. The were called Wandervogel--Wandering Birds--and these intrepid young Germans had their own traditions. They set out on the road, wandered as far from the Fatherland as the Far East, had their own songs, poems, bandanas and shirts, and conducted themselves in a way that drew as little negative attention as possible. They craved the freedom of the open road, and, in fact, this sub-culture pre-dated the Nazi era by at least a generation. The Germany that they returned to became a nightmare of conformity and I suspect that almost all of these young people ended up in the military, or the Hitler Youth, depending on their age as conformity became mandatory.

In the present economic and social climate in these United States, adopting an alternative life-style is doable, but it requires the same determination and ongoing effort that participating in either of the aforementioned alternatives did. A person, or a couple, or a group of like-minded souls can buy a piece of land and begin laying the foundation for living in a way that does not require being tethered to a job, a career or a mortgage and all the other indebtedness that comes with being 'middle-class'. Most people think doing this would mean living in a way that is so impoverished and deprived that they could never tolerate it. This impression is false, and it is the result of just not knowing what an increasing number of people are doing across the land.

Learning how to become self-sustaining is now associated with the term: 'off the grid', which means dropping out of the system we're all literally plugged into. To be 'comfortable'--for the vast majority of Americans--means that you have a full set of monthly obligations to: the power company, the mortgage company, the energy company, the insurance company, the auto finance company, and on and on. This amounts to a 'monthly nut' that anybody living this way has to 'crack'. If you can no longer meet your all begins to fall apart and becomes a modern American nightmare, often ending in bankruptcy, even homelessness.

So, the question becomes: "Yes, but how do you escape this without living like a 17th century peasant?"

And, the answer is: "You avail yourself of the vast body of knowledge surrounding alternative dwellings"....even 'owner-built' dwellings that can be created for a song, compared to the turn-key homes that most feel are the only choice....and to which they immediately become indentured on signing a mortgage aggreement. My son's mother, built her own mountainside home in a year, using her own sweat, some help of friends and it was a comfortable and excellent dwelling. She is a Cornell graduate, with a masters in education and a law degree. But, she could have done this regardless of her formal education. She did it because she wanted a home that would not enslave her.

Becoming self-sustaining in all the ways that it is both possible and necessary is eminently DOABLE. But, not unless you start thinking outside the box.....the box that comes with a hefty monthly payment.

One of the greatest assets that any person or couple can have is that of friends. Finding people who feel similarly and who want to also 'escape', is vastly easier in these days of the internet than it used to be. The process of building a community of people who are willing to throw in together and depend on each other, is both a grand and difficult undertaking, but a source of making the whole process of becoming liberated ever so much more doable and sustainable.

So, when you ask: "What alternatives?" My response is that you need to begin shifting your focus away from what you CANNOT DO towards what is POSSIBLE,...and once you do that, the possibilities begin to emerge from the mist.

When I landed in Marin County CA, fresh out of grad school, head stuck in the mainstream American paradigm, I was convinced that life consisted of a series of roadblocks that one had to overcome, defeat or somehow learn to accept. The de facto matriarch of the extended family that adopted me was a remarkable woman named Donna. One evening as we sat around, I was grousing about wanting to travel but not having any money. She looked at me and shook her head. "You dumb ass. All you have to do is stand up and walk out of that door and you are travelling." I looked askance. She continued, "Just do it and figure out the details as you go." She was speaking with credibility because not long before I met her, she had spent several years travelling all the way around the planet. She'd been a cocktail waitress in Hawaii, and one day she got fed up, tossed her apron to the bartender, said, "See ya." And, she took off for she knew not where....with a young child.

A month later, I landed in Paris.....with $40 in my pocket. And, I stayed in Europe for the next five months, had the adventure of a lifetime.

You can only escape your limitations if you are willing to set them aside.

This much I have learned. Btw: That is a picture of Donna at the beginning of this piece.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Coming Divide.....

Several times in the last few months Ayn Rand has been brought to my attention. The first time was because Congressman Paul Ryan has been said to require his staffers to read Rand's writings, which largely boil down to either Atlas Shrugged, or Fountainhead, the two novels for which she has become known. You recall that Ryan is the one who wants to solve the deficit problem by dismantling Medicare and Social Security, right?

Rand developed a pseudo-philosophy called Objectivism, and it was essentially an argument that the purpose of life is to make yourself happy, to get what you want, what you can, and remember that compassion for those less fortunate is a form of illness, stupidity, and just's for suckers. I refer to her philosophical efforts as 'pseudo' because the entire academic philosophy community recognized her as one who was not a serious philosopher, but as a person who just wanted to legitimize her personal viewpoint. Believing that self-interest is cool and altruism is foolish, doesn't make you a serious philosopher on any legitimate level, it just makes you a coy person who wants to have what you want and not feel guilty. My wife summed up Rand's philosophical argument very succinctly: "It sucks to be you."

So, in a society where self-interest has come into its own, where putting integrity and honor aside in favor of playing the acquisition game has become the avowed goal of people who hide behind the august sounding label of 'entrepreneur', it just makes sense that some of the self-anointed purveyors of wisdom would seek ways to justify acting in what most of us recognize as selfish and even predatory ways. The World War II generation knew with great clarity--for the most part--that being a selfish person who eschews and uses the less fortunate is not a qualification for being a decent person. In fact, most of that generation--having lived through the Great Depression and having fought to save the world from fascism and the murder or enslavement of millions--knew without having to philosophize about it, that being a decent Human Being is more important than merely getting what you desire...especially when you do so at the expense of others.

We are headed down the road to a Great Divide: those on one side have adopted Ayn Rand's attitude and will stop at nothing to get what they feel they are entitled to have. Those on the other side will be the modern equivalent of a proletariat. They work to keep a roof over theirs an their family's heads, food on the table and they hope for a reasonably happy life as they go about this task...a task that for many is becoming a dire struggle.

The people on the Rand side largely regard these others as 'useable', there for the exploiting and suitable to build their personal dreams on the backs and the sweat of the less fortunate. It has been this way for a very long time. Once it was outright slavery, then a feudal system of exploitation, now it is a much more refined system in which those who seek it can become a part of this 'ruling class' and have the means and the channels through which to use hold the reins of power. The rich are getting not just richer; they are becoming an elite class of power brokers and money barons who now call the shots in government. They essentially have the wherewithal to buy political power, to de facto own the mechanism of governance, and to thereby ascend to levels of power and wealth that allow them to not merely be pleased with themselves, but to RUN THE ENTIRE SOCIETY, as they please.

And, unless you are one of them....that is not good news for you. The aphids of the middle-class will be kept under control by making sure that they have enough desire to own STUFF, and that they can borrow the means to do so. By keeping us scrambling for what we need and for what we believe will make us happy....the power elite has us eating out of their hands. Whether it be the desire/need for a home, a nice vehicle...or several, all the electro and petro toys we could ever imagine and never need but come to DESIRE.....we are on their treadmill and it looks very much like the big rotary turntable milking machines that large commercial dairies have. We need medical matter the price....we must have higher becoming a source of massive indebtedness for so many. We must have all the glittering toys that we are bombarded with from the ever larger glowing screens that comprise so much of our lives now.

The grand irony in all of this is that we're so busy scrambling for what we think we need, for what will somehow--though we have no real evidence of this--make us HAPPY....that we haven't got the time or energy to resist what all of this is doing to us. One clue might be the fact that the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants has now soared over 100 million per year....with a rapidly growing percentage of them being written for CHILDREN. If you look at it all from a distant mountain-top, with a sense of how it all works, you begin to see that this system of economic and social domination is now at a very high level of smooth-running perfection.

We are doing just exactly what we're expected to do: work hard, conform to what is expected and, indeed, demanded of us. And, the people who are using us, who understand that it 'sucks to be us', are getting so good at making us believe that we're somehow 'free', and that if we just do what they want we'll also be happy, that we can no longer even see what is really happening to what was once dreamt of as a near-utopian society.

If you do see what is happening, and it doesn't sit well with you...chances are you just haven't got the right prescription for an anti-depressive drug. Maybe things would seem better if you just asked your doc to put you on something different.

Or you can admit that you do see what is happening and that you don't like it, that you, in fact, do not accept it as inevitable.

And.....then you can begin to ask yourself what the alternatives are.

BTW: when Ayn Rand died, her funeral was sparsely attended...but some caring soul had the presence of mind to order up a large funerary flower arrangement, in the shape of a DOLLAR SIGN. What a legacy, eh?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Fine Art of Irony

Every once in a while, something appears in the media that is so over-the-top, that it seems it must have been written by a tongue-in-cheek dark humorist. My favorite has been Kurt Vonnegut Jr, who was responsible for such dark insights as: "The only acceptable form of suicide in this society is Pall Malls." And, yes, that is what he smoked, and I am sure contributed to his death in some measure.

But, just a few days ago, I read an astonishing nugget of irony (click on the title above to read the newspaper story). A large group of motocyclists were staging a 'protest' ride, to, of course, protest the mandatory helmet law in New York state. There were about 550 of them, and I would suppose that more than 90 or 95% were riding Harleys...most of them making that lovely--to some--staccato 'potato, potato' noise that they so love, and which is seemingly somehow exempt from noise laws in communities across the country.
So, as this defiant motorcade proceeded through the town of Onondaga NY, a rider, Philip Contos, from Parish NY, had to brake explanation why, but from experience I will guess that he suddenly saw that he was going faster than the rider in front of him. So, he grabbed a handful of front brake...and his '83 Harley snapped sideways and tossed poor Philip over the handlebars. This could happen to anybody who rides, regardless of how many years they've ridden, and how good they are. But, on this day, poor Philip landed on his head, and suffered a head trauma. He was transported to a local hospital where he was declared dead. The police issued a report stating flatly that had he been wearing a helmet, he would have very likely survived.

Now, I am not making light of this man's death. I am sure that he will be missed and that it is a tragedy on multiple levels. But, the irony in this instance is so humongous, so inestimably VAST...that it should not go un-noticed or ignored.

I have ridden motorcycles since I was in my teens. A rough guesstimate of miles passed under me would be somewhere around 300K. I also live in a state that steadfastly refuses to mandate helmets for motorcyclists.....despite the fact that there is a detailed and undeniable body of proof that helmets do save lives, lessen the severity of injuries and are just a damn good idea. Every time this issue is brought back to the Maine legislature for consideration, all the heavy-metal Harley types turn out in their most troglodific outfits and threaten mayhem if such a law is put on the books. Okay, I get it. It is a choice.

What I don't get is that so many younger riders, just getting started in the sport, follow the macho example of these bare-headed riders and venture forth into the dangerous environment of steel, concrete, asphalt, and sundry unforgiving objects....without a clue that even a seemingly 'gentle' tap on the noggin will render them cabbage-like sacks of flesh. The lucky ones are killed, never know the joys of spending decades being fed from a tube, having a ventilator forcing air into their lungs.

It seems, on balance, one more example of the dumbing of America in its final stages of completion. And, this poor fellow in upstate New York has just become a symbol of how utterly unforgiving and wildly ironic life can be.......especially when you approach it with your brains in the seat of your pants.

After owning 16 motorcycles, riding more than a quarter million miles, I can state with absolute certainty that I would have been killed AT LEAST three times, possibly four, and I might have been paralyzed another two. I still ride..sometimes faster than I should. And, I wear one of the best helmets money can buy.

But, apparently, in America today, we have perfected the idea that Truth is what we want it to be....not what it factually is. And, we put greater store in showing off our defiant machismo, than we do in the value of human life. So, what else is new, right?

Monday, June 27, 2011

And....what is NOT art.

As synchronicity would have it, a friend sent me a link to a piece on Fox News about a new art form.....or not. You'll have to decide that for yourself. It is worth a laugh, if not a tsk, tsk.

Of course you will be familiar with actor James Franco. His movie about the hiker who cut-off his arm with a dull pocket-knife was a grand success last year. Franco has also dabbled in other areas of creative endeavor, and his latest one is quite interesting. Click on the above title and read the linked article.

Franco and some cohorts, have apparently discovered a new level of sophistication in making art: i.e. you actually ask the collector, client, buyer....uh, okay sucker, to pay for something imaginary, and then you give them a tag or label telling them what they bought.....or actually DIDN'T buy. I think.

I mean, it's just a little confusing to me. If you are selling them 'nothing' but their own imaginary thoughts....did you sell them 'something' or 'nothing', because if you sold them nothing and they paid you good money--over $11K so far--exactly what took place here?

During an interview with FOX--those elite sophisticates and connoisseurs of all things nice, eh--Franco was careful to point out: "We're sincere. This isn't a scam". Which is probably the first thing that any good scam artist would want you to believe.

I just sold you some, pay up, or else. Seems to me that they should be willing to accept payment in imaginary dollars.


What is art....Part MCVII....or whatever.

If you click on the above title line, you will be whisked off to an article that appeared in the London Daily Mail.

It seems some English journalists wanted to find out what you and I, the art viewing and museum going public want to spend our time looking at in a museum. In order to write this article they spent time sitting in galleries in The Tate Britain, a world-class London museum, and they clocked how much time visitors spent on a variety of different works, in a very broad spectrum of genres. I won't blather on because you'd be much better off just reading the article. Seems we don't show much interest in the 'body parts and dead animal' school of modern art....or the 'field of dots that look like wrapping paper' school.....or the " I am sitting in a chair in the desert" genre of photography....or pretty much any of that crap, in fact.

It should come as no great revelation that we want to look at art that moves us emotionally, touches our humanity, enriches our sense of beauty, has a little poignancy, maybe a sense of the poetic....and is just plain accessible without a masters in the history of art.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bat-shit crazy...doesn't begin to describe Michelle Bachmann

Do yourself a favor and click on the above title line, and reat Matt Taibbi's piece on Bachmann in Rolling Stone magazine.

But......don't laugh.

Just read it, you'll see why.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bantering with terms like "Mass Extinction"

"If the current actions contributing to a multifaceted degradation of the world's oceans aren't curbed, a mass extinction unlike anything human history has ever seen is coming, an expert panel of scientists warns in an alarming new report." This is the opening paragraph in the story on Huffington Post that is linked to the title above.

Here is some more of that story:

"The scientific panel concluded that degeneration in the oceans is happening much faster than has been predicted, and that the combination of factors currently distressing the marine environment is contributing to the precise conditions that have been associated with all major extinctions in the Earth's history.
According to the report, three major factors have been present in the handful of mass extinctions that have occurred in the past: an increase of both hypoxia (low oxygen) and anoxia (lack of oxygen that creates "dead zones") in the oceans, warming and acidification. The panel warns that the combination of these factors will inevitably cause a mass marine extinction if swift action isn't taken to improve conditions."

So, I sit here and wonder how much more dire things have to get....before we wake-up. If I open up a news-site and read that a large asteroid has been detected on a collision course with Earth, due to arrive a year from now, will my day go on as previously planned? Maybe I will just short-out and act as if nothing new has come up. Or maybe I will just snicker that those idiots with the big telescopes are full of crap. What do they know? I have too many plans, hopes, dreams for the future to get sucked-in by all this 'Chicken Little" nonsense, anyway. I mean, you could spend all of your waking life worrying about one thing or another and what would it accomplish in the end, right? So, to hell with all those doomsayers; I plan to just continue on with my life as if nothing is happening.

And, if you just nodded your assent to the above line of thinking....then you are fiddling while Rome is burning. Here is something that is an indisputable fact: IF THE OCEANS DIE....SO DO WE. The oceans of this planet are the source of life. The vast majority of photosynthesis takes place...not in forests, but in the oceans. It is the tiny little blue-green algae who carry the bulk of the responsibility for absorbing carbon-dioxide and off-gassing oxygen. If that process is stopped, or even if it is significantly as we know it will be unable to continue. This is the WATER PLANET, dear friends. It took some billions of years for it to evolve into a stable mechanism, as delicately balanced as a jeweled watch movement, providing all that is necessary for life to flourish.

And now we are actively destroying that balance. What I find so utterly agonizing, even worse than merely being stupid....we are doing this intentionally and denying it as we do so. All the truly conservative candidates that want to run for Big Kahuna--to become The Decider--deny that Global Warming is either real, or man-made. They want to believe that it is a conspiracy, cooked up by people like Al Gore to serve their own greedy purposes. What we are doing to our host planet is indeed VERY INCONVENIENT....but, that is all it is to these people.

So, if you read this article and note the reminder that we must act and act effectively and with great will also possibly say to yourself: "Yeah, what are the chances of that?"

In listening to the public discourse on the subject of our own mass extinction becoming ever more must hear the denial, the hopelessness, the inability to comprehend that we're really looking at the end of life as it presently exists....and still find a way to keep hoping that somehow, some way, some time...we will reach the critical mass referred to as 'the tipping point' by Malcom Gladwell. This is the point at which one might say, 'an idea's time has come'. But, if that doesn't happen we, and our children and our grandchildren will be forced to witness what is already being referred to by some scientists as the Sixth Great Extinction.....our own, and the first one to be brought about by one of the species that will be extinguished.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What you need to know about Michelle Bachmann....

Just in case you are skeptical about my last post, here is an article on The Daily Beast that you might want to read: (Please click on the above title line).

What I find most alarming is her reaction to being approached by two women who wanted to talk about gay marriage.  She actually tried to set them up for being charged with attacking her physically.

 This tells me that she has a basic underlying willingness to lie, to trample on the rights of other individuals in order to protect her own agenda.

I will not back away from my clear opinion that Michelle Bachmann is potentially a very dangerous person if she ever comes into a political position that would give her power.

And, as much as I would like to be proven wrong, I have a sense of dread about what Bachmann intends to do with the office she is seeking.

And, dear friends, she is GAINING MOMENTUM.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Here She Comes......

Well, you had to know it would happen.  Michelle Bachmann used the Republican debate in New Hampshire last night to inform the nation that she has filed the papers declaring her candidacy for president.  David Gregory, a senior NBC political corespondent, said this morning that he had never actually seen anybody manipulate the media so cleverly in this way.  She knew that doing this would almost guarantee her the spotlight in this news cycle, despite all the other candidates trying their best to stand out from the 'crowd', and it worked just as she had planned.

When Bachmann emerged on the national political scene, my initial reaction, along with many others, was that she was a joke. She said things that were so astonishingly stupid, made such outlandish statments--like that we should require a 'loyalty test' for members of congress--that it was impossible to take her seriously.  We also had another woman who was saying and doing things that would preclude thinking of her as an intelligent and sane adult: Sarah.  So, it was easy to imagine that Bachmann was just another Palin, but possibly even dumber.

Now, hold on, just one cotton-pickin' minute, there, fellah. Lately, Bachmann has been reminding people that she has been a 'tax attorney'.  She's been quite aware of her image and is taking steps to improve it.  She also knows that her audience is the far Christian right....the so-called 'Evangelicals', and she plays to their sensibilities in clarion tones that resonate with them, big time.  It seems apparent that she is improving her technique as she goes, and suddenly the congresswoman from Minnesota, who was regarded as a slower and nuttier second to Palin until just recently, is sitting on a stage in Manchester New Hampshire with a small group of politicians who are considered the only serious possible contenders for the Republican nomination. And, Sarah Palin was not there. Whoa!!!!  Wha' happened?

I can tell you this: Michelle Bachmann is NOT the stupid bufoon and Christian pedant that we so blithely dismissed.  She is smart, determined, sly, manipulative and--hold on--one of the most dangerous figures to emerge onto the American political stage in generations. She is the personification of Sinclair Lewis's archetypal fascist figure who, on arrival among us, will be: "....wrapped in the flag and carrying the Bible". 

She sees the world through a lens that filters everything into categories: Christian, not-Christian,  Patriotic, not so much, for me, agin' me.  And, should she ever gain real political power, the means to enact policies and directives that conform with her world-view, it's going to be a dark day in American history.

She will be inclined to persecute her perceived enemies in any way that she can.  She will move this country in subtle and not so subtle ways  towards being even more Christo-centric than it ever has been.  Tolerance and acceptance are weaknesses in the world she inhabits.  If you are not on her side, you will be 'the enemy'.  Left unimpeded, she would create the Christian equivalent of an Islamic Republic. Luckily, she is not running for dictator, and there are built-in balances and constraints....which, I predict now, she will try to dismantle if we face another crisis on the order of 9-11. 

A decade ago I wrote a novel, "Above and Beyond" much of it set in Nazi Germany in the 30s and 40s.  It followed the lives of a young couple in southern Bavaria.  The young woman, Gabriele, knew from the outset who Hitler was, and when she tried to explain how she knew this, she ultimately resorted to, "I can see it in his eyes, Hans. It is right there."

And, that is how I feel about Michelle Bachmann.  I HOPE I am wrong....but, I don't believe I am.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ah, the Contrasts....

If you are a regular follower here, you already know that almost every morning of the week, four seasons round, I am forced to walk in the Maine woods.  Emma, and Holly, two 8 year-old golden retrievers, insist that I do this. Should I attempt to ignore them, they come to wherever I am and stare at the side of my head.  It soon becomes unbearable, a feeling of laser-vision from big brown eyes that bore into me....until I finally relent and put my jacket on, or pick-up a walking-stick and head out the door.  It is more a ritual than merely a routine.  And, if you love dogs, you know that having a predictable rhythm in their day is very important to them.

So, come rain or shine, snow or mosquitoes, there we are treading lightly on trails that intersect a large-ish block of un-trammeled northern forest.  The woods have a rhythm too.  It has more to do with their seasonal cycles than the weather on a given day, but it is utterly predictable and very enjoyable as it progresses through the year. We are now in the period when spring has begun to morph into summer....not really there yet, but now more the latter than the former, to be sure.  The delicate yellow-greens of new leaves have started to become darker and more towards the 'iron' greens of high summer, but the leaves are still soft to the touch. 

Flowers are in their second stage now, the trillium is gone-by, and there is a plethora of tiny star-shaped flowers, mosses are burgeoning, and this year the ferns are blasting off for the moon. Perhaps the wet and cool spring set them up for such growth, but I passed some today that are shoulder high and still growing.  The bug season, has, of course, taken-off too.  Depending on the time of day, how humid and warm it is, the black flies and the mosquitoes are at bumper crop levels this year.  The streams are running well, which is great for the black flies, since they lay their eggs on rocks in running water...and there are large pools of standing water in the depths of the woods, which is a natural paradise for the muzzies. 

Fortunately, I just found an article on DEET that indicated it is not the chemical disaster that most of us have felt it was.  Research has proven that it is actually much more benign than I would have guessed.  So, now I can apply it as I have all along...and just not feel as self-destructive and guilty as I did.  Good for me, bad for the hungry insects who need my blood. Boo hoo.

As I was walking today, it occurred to me how eminently 'sane' nature is. Not only is it beautiful and pure in its intent to simply get on with its process of living and constantly becoming...but it all just seems to make sense.  I listened to a veritable cacophony of song-birds, all of them trilling, warbling, and tweeting with obvious intent.  And, while we might imagine they do it because it sounds nice, the truth is I was hearing a battle for breeding territories.  All the "Hey, here I am," and the "This acre is mine," calls are according to a firm and ancient ritualized understanding of how they will propagate and who will do what and where they'll do it. I was hearing not just the thrushes melodic calls; I was hearing their entire history as a species speaking to me through their DNA.  A bird of a particular species has an indistinguishable call from every other bird of that species.  Otherwise the whole system of recognition and establishing breeding and nesting territories would  break down.  We crave being unique individuals....while they are drawn to be simply a perfect example of what they are.  I love it.

I was going to contrast this green world of perfection with the folly that goes on beyond it...out here in the not so real world.  But, it doesn't feel like I want to do that anymore.  Somehow it would be wrong to mention the parade of clowns who are now posturing for an opportunity to lead us.  It doesn't matter that the entire shootin' match is getting progressively weirder.  I want the taste of perfection that awaits me each morning to maintain some of its separation from all of this.  I almost don't think I could climb into my car at the edge of the woods, and drive straight to Wal-Mart...without having an experience that would approach some kind of mental crisis.  And, it is hard to accept that I spend almost all of my waking reality in the weird world, and not the one where absolutely everything is perfect and makes complete sense. 

Go figure, eh.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sell my clothes, I'm goin' to heaven.....

Every once in a while, my wife uses the above expression.  It usually happens when she has just taken a bite of an extra yummy dessert, or a sip of an unusually fine wine.  I don't know where she got it, but I suspect it dates back to her childhood years on Martha's Vinyard.  It does seem to have a kind of 'New England-ish' ring to it.

 But, when Abby says this nobody jumps up to gather up her clothes and put them in the garage in preparation for a forthcoming garage sale.  It's just a joke.  So, it really boogles my mind to hear that apparently a number of people cashed in their retirements, spent their life-savings, otherwise 'sold their clothes'....all because this old fart with a radio program said the end of the world was coming as of last Saturday.  The report I saw said that these people are now very pissed-off that they did all that.....only to have the anointed hour come and go without incident.  The wizened--if not wise--old preacher now says he made a mistake in his calculations; the end will actually happen in OCTOBER.  Ah, no wonder we waited for nothing.

I am beyond being simply amazed that people can be this obtuse.  They actually threw away their entire futures just because this elderly fool said something hugely unlikely was going to happen.  Did they not know that this is like a hobby among far-right Christians?  People have predicted the 'end of the world' countless times.  They have gone to the mountaintop....and sat there waiting.  But, nothing has EVER come to pass....not ever, not once, has there been a single event that would give any of these inane, hair-brained predictions the merest shred of credibility.  So, I am struggling to understand what kind of a glitch in a person's mind would cause them to think, "Ah-ha, this time it's for real." 

I actually think that anybody who is willing to 'cut off their nose' in this fashion DESERVES what comes out of it. Stupidity on such a monumental level should have consequences.  We see it in other situations: a person steps in front of a bus without looking....and they die.  A person lets a stranger into their house because he says his car broke down....and they get attacked.  Life is a rhythm of actions taken...and consequences that result. It is NOT an act of faith to do something potentially disastrous all the while depending on an outcome that is so unlikely.  This is the realization that if you jump off the high-rise, and expect someone to reach out and hand you a parachute on the way are going to go SPLAT.  Testing your idea of God in this fashion is almost always going to end badly.

Maybe I should be more sympathetic.  These people were, after all, acting out of trust; they were practicing their faith as they understood it.  But, they were also acting against all common sense.  They were acting in complete denial of what any right-minded person would say was a given.  Sure, life as we know it might have ended.  I think the old parable about Chicken Little has some basis in human nature.  But, acting as these people did and then being angry because the most highly unlikely scenario in human history didn't happen right on that is just plain STUPID.

I have a feeling that we may be nearing the bottom of the 'stupidity scale', that the 'dumbing of America' is nearly complete.  By God, I sure hope so.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Just in case we had any doubts......

Okay,okay.....I didn't really want to get back to The Donald any time soon.  But, he was in our neck of the woods yesterday, and his statement at the airport was just too tempting.  He made his grand entrance in his sleek, dark helicopter, with his name emblazoned on the side in huge letters....Jon Stewart said, "...just in case he loses it"...and it was both astonishing and very revealing, not just for the self-congratulatory and egotistic b.s. that we've come to expect from him....but, for its clear indications of who Donald Trump really is.

You may recall a posting here a while back, in which I laid out the nature of NPD, i.e., Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In case you missed it, here are some of the widely recognized symptoms associated with this condition:
  • Believing that you're better than others
  • Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
  • Exaggerating your achievements or talents
  • Expecting constant praise and admiration
  • Believing that you're special and acting accordingly
  • Failing to recognize other people's emotions and feelings
  • Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
  • Taking advantage of others
  • Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
  • Being jealous of others
  • Believing that others are jealous of you
  • Trouble keeping healthy relationships
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Being easily hurt and rejected
  • Having a fragile self-esteem
  • Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
Having read these, I believe you might recognize that MOST of them easily apply to Trump.  It's too easy to simply dismiss him as a buffoon.  Nah.  He's ever so much more than that.  He's actually so marinated in his self-image and self-adulation that he is potentially dangerous.  He has already bluntly stated that we should be, "....getting something in return",  for our willingness to engage in our military operations.

Some of us have, perhaps naively, assumed that the United States has been fighting in order to combat Islamic terrorism, to restore order and at least some semblance of democracy in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Our best intention is not and has never been to 'profit' from these situations; it has been to get rid of despotic regimes and to hand the people of these countries back a society that is hopefully one in which people can live without fear of a government that terrorizes them, kills them at will and forces them to live in misery.  I do recognize that we have become mired in both of these situations...but, at least we have been willing to operate from a higher principle than, "What's in it for us?"  If you ask front-line military personnel from either campaign why they are there, the almost ubiquitous answer one receives is something akin to: "We're here to help these people."  And, they have been willing to make sometimes terrible sacrifices to do that.

But Trump doesn't see the world through the same lens that most Americans do.  He sees it all as a kind of Monopoly board game in which the one who accrues the most capital is not merely the 'winner' but is now the dominant power and is always willing to use that power to increase one's own wealth.  He has already stated, in so many words, that we should be getting Libya's oil if we are going to make a sacrifice to help them rid themselves of their own narcissist, good ol' Muhamar El Nutjob. 

It boggles the mind to suppose what a man like Donald Trump would do if he actually were to hold a position of any actual power.  This guy makes people like poor Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann look like the junior varsity of NPDs. They may be self-deluded and far out there, but Trump has massive resources and the ruthlessness to use them in any way that he can get traction.  His incessant use of the 'birther' non-issue is proof of that. Now he's off and running on whether or not the President should have gotten into Harvard. His NPD almost guarantees that he'll stop at nothing to have his way.

And, more and more, it is becoming apparent that he will indeed throw his hat in the ring, attempt to battle his way through the GOP minefield and become president of these United States.  This is the stuff of a Kurt Vonnegut Jr. novel, folks.

It is going to be an interesting time over the next months. If we fall asleep at the wheel and allow someone of his ilk to suddenly emerge as our will be just exactly what we deserve.

I am praying that common sense will prevail.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Well, spring is at least trying.....

Finally, our goldens are running out of places to take their elaborate 'snow baths' when we go in the woods each morning.  It has seemed to take forever this year for the snow to melt, and now the woods are in a kind of limbo, between the dead of winter, and exploding with life.  There is a kind of almost sullen feeling to them.

But, it is getting warmer each day, with brief exceptions, and I heard 'peepers' for the first time the other, I know that any day now the grand transition from greys, tans, browns and evergreen shades of green, to the fresh and even brilliant greens of spring is going to happen.  And, when it does, it will happen in a rush. The mosses will perk up, become a much more emerald shade of green.  Little shoots will push up through the soggy mass of dead leaves, elbowing aside any and all impediments....and then the flowers will appear almost everywhere you look.  The Trillium will be among the first, but there will be a virtual carpet of tiny blue and yellow blossoms in many places.  It feels good.

Of late, I have not wanted to write on this blog.  In the absence of being inspired by my love of the woods and all that lives therein, I have felt beset by events and people in the 'un-real' world around us. When I realized that my last several posts were all about people I consider to be among the lowest of the just seemed too negative.

In these times, apparently, it is the hour of the idiots to take the stage.  The Trumps, Bachmanns, Palins (though I am thankful that she is quickly fading from any serious role in the public arena) and all the other clowns out there, are here for a reason.  As Farid Zakaria mentioned on his own blog, the birther stuff is simply and undeniably "coded racism", and he asked:  would it be out there if Barack Obama was white and named Jim Smith?  The answer to that--for anybody with a brain--is NO. The Donald has now stooped to questioning if Barack Obama should have gotten into Harvard.  Of course, the fact that the President graduated Magnum Cum Laude and was head of the Harvard Law Review...well, we'll just ignore that.

So, I am coming into a place of accepting that we are living in a time when Greed--yes, with a capital 'G'--is coming into the fore.  Congress is doing the bidding of Big Money, siding with those who would plunder Americans for all their worth.  The cast of characters that the GOP is looking at for the 2012 presidential race, is so loaded with people who want to push this agenda that it will be almost impossible for them to single out a rational candidate who actually puts the well-being of Americans--other than the rich--first.

So, be it. Let it all unfold however it will.  Those of us who clearly see what is happening to our country will turn out once again, and we will vote for the man who has disappointed us on so many levels, but is still a country mile better than the hairballs who will oppose him.

My father was a life-long horticulturist.  His special interest was in growing roses, really stunning ones. One day when I was perhaps 8 or 9, he called me over to a rose-bed and said, "Look at this."  He turned over a leaf on one of his prize rosebushes and it was covered with very pale small insects. "Those are aphids." I was a little puzzled because I knew he wasn't just showing me some bugs. He went on:" They live on these leaves and produce a nectar, and the ants 'farm' them.  They come around and actually 'milk' the aphids, and make sure that they are going to keep the ants can take it from them."  I do not actually have enough clarity of hindsight to know if Dad was knowingly teaching me a life lesson, or not.  But, he was very clear about the fact that the ants used the aphids for their own well-being and great benefit. I didn't get the impression that he thought this was pretty clever and 'hooray' for the ants. He was simply observing that the aphids were kind of like cows.  This stuck with me all these years.  And, only recently have I become aware that this is how 'Big Money' views and uses the middle-class.  We produce, and increasingly, we are being milked of what we do produce. Whether it is the amazingly userious profits of the pharmaceutical, credit, energy or medical and insurance industries...or simply the fact that the current business ethic has now fully morphed from: "a good product at a fair price", into "squeeze 'em for all their worth".

Everywhere you look you will find companies that are becoming very creative in how they strip you of your money.  Example: we bought a sub-compact Honda Fit.  We wanted a basic mode of transportation with as few bells and whistles as possible. We just don't give a damn about all the gewgaws on a car.  As it turns out, this little buggy comes--no choice--with a very clever system called TPMS, i.e. Tire Pressure Management System. The assumption is that you are too stupid to make sure your car has enough air in the they make sure a little light goes on on the dashboard to tell you that.  Well, it so happens that the sensors for each wheel cost over a HUNDRED BUCKS, and if you want to get rid of them the little light will always be on....and one person told me his mechanic wouldn't pass his car's inspection if it was.  So, just one more of the myriad ways in which a company now has you on the hook for something you DIDN'T EVEN WANT.

This is us being the aphids, folks.  The corporate 'ants' are milking us and we're almost utterly passive in the face of it.  Most people would ask, "What choice do we have?"  And, I will answer that in some detail in a subsequent posting.